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July 28, 2010

Positions matter little to Krzyzewski

Mike Krzyzewski doesn't particularly value traditional positions in basketball, and I suspect that approach will come in handy coaching this version of Team USA at the World Championships next month.

Krzyzewski was asked continuously during a media conference call Wednesday about the lack of height on this team. They had some bad luck: David Lee's hand injury, Amare Stoudemire's insurance complication and the after-effect of Brook Lopez's mononucleosis.

That means ex-Charlotte Bobcat Tyson Chandler is the only healthy true center and most everyone might have to play out of position.

But when has that bothered Duke's Hall of Fame coach? I did a magazine article with Krzyzewski years ago, and I asked him why he cares so little for conventional position labels. Krzyzewski answered that if his small forward fouls out, he'd rather put in his next-best player than his next-best small forward, because that next-best small forward might be his fifth-best player not already in the game.

Fast-forward to Wednesday, and Krzyzewski made it clear he won't fret over what he lacks. Instead, he'll put in his best five and hope the other teams have to match up with his odd-ball combinations.

"We don't have (a lot of) big guys...We're not going to pick someone up on a trade or anything like that,'' Kryzyzewski said. "So we're trying to personalize a system to fit the strengths of this group. We're going to have to rely on really good perimeter defense to make sure that we don't get hurt nside.''

That, to an extent, is what Krzyzewski did in the Olympics. LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony played a lot of power forward in those games. That sacrificed a couple of inches of height, but it made the other team's power forward guard a dramatically better athlete.

James and Anthony aren't participating this time, but putting some names to positions, it means Kevin Durant might play some power forward and Lamar Odom plenty of center. The idea is to make the other team adapt to your next-best option, not the other way around.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 28, 2010 at 08:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Curry, Chandler make cut; Wallace out

 Charlotte Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace was cut from Team USA Wednesday following last week's tryout camp in Las Vegas.

However, Charlottean Stephen Curry, a second-year guard with the Golden State Warriors and former Bobcats center Tyson Chandler, now with the Dallas Mavericks, both made the first cut.

Wallace was one of four players cut from an initial squad of 19, and there could be additional cuts before Team USA competes in the World Championships in Turkey later this summer.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 28, 2010 at 03:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (39)

July 27, 2010

Looks like center-by-committee

 Phoenix Suns big man Louis Amundson told the Arizona Republic's Paul Coro the Charlotte Bobcats are among teams interested in signing him. Amundson said Golden State and Toronto are also interested and it's unlikely the Suns will bring him back.

That seemingly confirms two things: That it's likely, if not inevitable, the Bobcats will waive Erick Dampier (rather than trade him) to avoid a $13 million salary. And the Bobcats will play center-by-committee, with Nazr Mohammed, Gana Diop and one other big man sharing the minutes pretty freely.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 27, 2010 at 10:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)

Really, ask what you'd sacrifice

Two Sundays ago I wrote a column about how the Bobcats were serious about the Chris Paul bidding, and what it might take to be in the mix.

Based on the reaction I got, many of you would revolt if Gerald Wallace had to go to make Paul happen. I don't know if GW is that essential, but I do know this: This team would have to dismantle to create a team. That would have two effects:

1. You'd get worse before you ever got better (OK, but...)

2. You might lose Paul when he becomes a free agent two years hence, because he's not looking to exchange one rebuilding plan for another.

Larry Brown wants this to happen, and I sure understand that desire. But I doubt this will happen, and more importantly, I doubt it is a strong long-term plan.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 27, 2010 at 12:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

July 26, 2010

Oh, sure...Paul is a lifer in New Orleans

So I got the the following email from the Hornets (attributed to Chris Paul)...

“The meeting went well.  It was great to get an opportunity to sit down with Coach Williams, President Weber and our new General Manager Dell Demps. I expressed my desire to win and I like what they said about the direction that they want to take the team.  I have been a Hornet my entire career and I hope to represent the city of New Orleans and state of Louisiana for many years to come.”

...cleared all that up, right?

Not so much. There is some possibility the Hornets convinced Paul they will soon become an NBA contender. There is also a possibility Clay Aiken is an NBA point guard. I don't pretend to know what happened at that meeting but I do know the following:

1. No one in the NBA thinks Paul is not in play.

2. If you were the Hornets front office, and you were desperate to finesse this mess, you'd ask Paul to issue a statement saying he is perfectly happy in New Orleans. You would make that request because to do anything else further erodes Paul's trade value to the Hornets.

I doubt the Bobcats will end up with Paul. I doubt Paul is somewhere other than New Orleans at the start of the season.  But anyone in New Orleans who thinks Paul is a lifer there is a fool. 

Posted by Observer Sports on July 26, 2010 at 11:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

July 24, 2010

Team USA scrimmage worth a look

 While I hope many of you have more interesting Saturday nights planned, you might want to check out the Team USA intra-squad scimmage tonight at 10 p.m. from Vegas for this simple reason:

As best I can tell from afar, each of the three players with local ties -- Bobcat Gerald Wallace, ex-Bobcat Tyson Chandler and Charlottean Stephen Curry -- has a real chance to make the team that plays in the World Championships in Turkey.

 I'm not particularly surprised. I made the case to go to Vegas for the tryouts, but (and I respect this) money is tight these days. Short of Wallace suffering some horrible injury, nothing that happens there would directly affect the Bobcats next season.

But getting back to the point, I saw a role for all three, once the superstars decided to take the summer off. That's a combination of how the International game is played and -- more importantly -- what Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski values.

I covered Krzyzewski for a single season before shifting to the NBA beat with the Observer, but I feel I'm lucky to have learned from him. Krzyzewski values versatility most. I once asked him why he disdains position labels. He said that with the exception of point guard (indispensible), he always wanted to put in his next-best player -- not his best-best player at a particular position -- when someone fouled out.

To play that way, it's essential you have players who can guard multiple positions. Wallace is great at that and he's also the kind of team guy who'd be happy filling in as a specialist or energy guy off the bench.

Curry and Chandler making this team would be more about preparing for International play. Curry is a zone-buster, and that's so much more important in the International game. Chandler is the best defensive center left, and if he's healthy (what sentence about Chandler doesn't include that phrase?), he can stray from the lane to guard pick-and-pop big men.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 24, 2010 at 06:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

July 22, 2010

They picked the wrong guy to victimize

 Two quick reactions to the report that the home Charlotte Bobcat Stephen Jackson lives in here was invaded by armed robbers

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2010/07/22/1577971/armed-men-break-into-home-of-bobcats.html :

1. I so feel for his wife, who must have been terrorized by the experience.

2. To the guys who picked Jackson's family to victimize, I ask, "What were you thinking?''

Anyone who knows anything about Jackson gets that he's overprotective of people closest to him. His older brother was clubbed to death, and he's always been marked by the memory that someone should have been there to watch his brother's back. That was a factor in his participation in the brawl in Auburn Hills, Mich., when he was a Pacer and his firing a handgun outside a strip club as a Warrior.

(And Jackson is the first to say that's no excuse, just an effort at explaining his actions).

My point is Jackson is the last person you'd want holding a grudge, after you held his family at gunpoint.

I've seen a change in athletes the past few years, as far as them being highly protective of their privacy. Situations like this make that understandable. They're high-profile targets, and every time a team's schedule comes out, it's predictable when they'll be out of town.

 So when athletes become a little prickly about revealing what they do in their off-hours, I get the reason.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 22, 2010 at 11:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (38)

July 20, 2010

Diaw is an asset; figure it out

 So what to do with Boris Diaw?

I know what follows in the comments: "Trade him for anything!'' "Boot him outta town!' "Sit him now!''

Trouble is, that's not living in the real world and it's sure not making the best use of resources, particularly on a team with limited options. So let's talk the art of the possible.

Much of the fan base was frustrated with Diaw last season. Appropriately so. His nonchallance -- the guy will never be confused with Ray Lewis -- showed through more than you'd wish. That highlighted something many of you tolerated in the past; that Diaw is a reluctant shooter, to the point that he's passing up good shots in an unrealistic attempt to create great shots for others.

As Dick Harter taught me a long time ago, the most selfish thing you can do in a college game is take the first open shot, and the most selfish thing you can do in an NBA game (24-second shot clock) is pass up the first open shot.

Having said all that, I think Diaw was trashed last season beyond his actual flaws. Understandably, fans tend to focus on measurables and often what Diaw did best -- reliable defense and hockey assists -- don't show up in the box score. I'm not disputing he took games off -- he does -- but the subtle things he provides might be valued only in his absence.

So let's say, after that near-miss trade with Toronto, that Diaw ends up here for the season. Here's how I'd finesse the situation:

1. Don't start Tyrus Thomas. He doesn't have an expectation of starting and Diaw does (and should, and by the way, though starting is way overrated).

2. Do play Thomas starter's minutes and leave him at power forward to learn his craft. Larry Brown seems to think it's his legacy here to turn Thomas into all that he might be, and when Larry stakes out a position on a player's potential, he tends to deliver.

3. While Diaw technically starts at power forward, by the end of the game his 30 minutes should be distributed all through the five positions.

The best thing about Diaw is versatility. Diaw might not be dominating at any one thing, but how many players in this league are competent at all five? Ten, at most, and that could well be an overstatement.

Magic Johnson had the skill set of a point guard and the size to start at center. I'm not for a second suggesting Diaw is Magic, a player who might never quite be replicated.

Here's what I'm saying: My son (a promising first baseman at Myers Park High) talks about what a smart acquisition Omar Infante was for the Braves because he can play virtually any position. Diaw is that. And while they might be overpaying for that versatility, it's a real asset on a team with holes.

Sounds like the kind of intellectual challenge/opportunity Larry Brown relishes. 

Posted by Observer Sports on July 20, 2010 at 09:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (42)

Livingston on his knee injury

 The Charlotte Bobcats made it official today, signing 6-foot-7 point guard Shaun Livingston. The team made Livingston available to local media. A couple of quick headlines:

-- Livingston suffered a horrible left knee injury as a Los Angeles Clipper (while playing against the Bobcats). I asked how this affects how many minutes he can play and how often he can practice. Livingston said there's no "cap'' (his word) on the minutes he can play, but that monitoring minutes, along with a lot of maintenance work on his knee and the surrounding muscles, is now part of his routine.

-- He acknowledged there was a real chance back in 2007 that he'd never play again: ""I was very close'' to retiring, said Livingston, who tore three of the four major ligaments in his knee, plus two dislocations. "There was a possibiity of nerve damage or blood(-flow) and cellular damage. That was the reality. But there wasn't.

"Rehab-wise, I was confident I could come back. If there was any chance, any light at the end of the tunnel, I was going to make it back. I just made that (resolution) in my mind.''

More from Livingston in tomorrow's Observer.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 20, 2010 at 02:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

July 19, 2010

Team USA in locals' future?

 Three players with Charlotte ties -- Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace, ex-Bobcat Tyson Chandler and former Davidson star Stephen Curry -- are in Las Vegas this week for a Team USA training camp. Unlikely as this might have sounded months ago, any of the three has a real chance of making the team.

The big-name stars who normally would be locks have declined invitations this time around. That means Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski will be starting pretty much from scratch, in assembling the national team that will represent the country in the World Championships in Turkey.

Of the three, I'd guess Wallace has the best chance of making the squad. Krzyzewski would particularly value Wallace's takeaway defensive skills and team-first approach to the game. But don't be surprised if Chandler makes the team; Krzyzewski needs size and shotblocking and -- assuming he is healthy -- Chandler can deliver both.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 19, 2010 at 12:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)